June 26, 2007

At the Automat

The man behind the counter at the pizza place I frequent for my weekday lunch breaks is kind of forgetful. Every time I'm there, he asks me if I want my pizza for there or to go. I always say I want it to go, and then a little time passes -- he takes someone else's order, he puts a few other slices in the oven, takes some out -- and then, invariably, he grabs a tray and puts my pizza on it, and I remind him, "To go, please," and he puts it in a bag.

This is not a big deal, of course, but I have always assumed he just loses track of who in line has asked for what because of juggling a few orders at once. Well, today, the pizza I wanted was already warm and didn't need to go in the oven. He put two slices on a paper plate and asked, "For here or to go?" I said, "To go." He nodded and immediately picked up a tray and put the slices on it, and I realized, oh, he's not forgetful, he's just so on autopilot that he doesn't actually listen to the answer to his automatic question. For him, it's apparently become the equivalent of a phatic "How are you?" "Fine, and you?" exchange that precedes the part of the conversation where actual information is exchanged. Interesting.

Posted by Francis at 03:56 PM

Oh, dear. I've been more or less behind that counter (though I don't have your lunch at my fingertips). After several hours behind the cash register during what we off-campus bookstore employees called "textbook rush" (though neither exhiliration nor Geddy Lee generally ensued), we were likely to unintentionally pepper our noxious spiel with repeated queries as to the customer's level of interest in receiving his or her books within the confines of a shopping bag:

"Your total is $249.57, and we'll need ID with that check."
"And did you want a bag with that?"
"And this coupon will entitle you to a free slice of pizza."
"And did you need a bag?"
"No thanks."
"Did I already ask you that?"
"Kind of."
"Oh! I almost forgot: Here's a postcard you can mail in to get a store membership card and score some discounts."
"And there's your receipt. Have a great semester! Do you need a bag?"
"Dude . . ."

Posted by: Jonathan Caws-Elwitt at June 26, 2007 10:30 PM

There's still the possibility that pizza guy has been lifted out of a really cruel logic puzzle. "The residents of this pizzeria will alternate between following and not following your requests."

Of course, you'll have to convince him to ask a different question at that point in the transaction to be sure.

Posted by: Robert Hutchinson at June 26, 2007 10:43 PM
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